Teen’s Family Sues City, Airport, After Son Falls From Wheel Well, Dies

The family of 16-year-old Delvonte Tisdale is suing the city of Charlotte, Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, and US Airways for the death of their son two years ago.

The teen allegedly ran away from home, made his way onto the tarmac at the Charlotte-Douglas Int’l Airport, and climbed into the wheel well of a Boeing 737 headed for Boston.

His body was later found in a Boston suburb. It was so badly damaged that an autopsy could not determine the cause of death. Authorities speculate that he fell from the wheel well of the jet, plummeting to the ground and landing in a quiet neighborhood immediately under the jet’s flight path. The teen’s fingerprints were found in the plane’s wheel well.

The family is suing the city, airport, and airline, citing that they should have done more to stop Tisdale from getting onto the tarmac and into the wheel well of the plane. The suit seeks damages in excess of $10,000.

“The city remains saddened by the death of Delvonte Tisdale and wishes to express sympathy for his family. However, I don’t see how the city or the airport could or should be held legally liable for Mr. Tisdale’s decisions and actions,” city attorney Bob Hagemann said in a statement in response to the lawsuit.

After the boy’s death, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police conducted a security review and stated that the airport police force was inadequate to properly monitor the airport.

“There is great concern that with all of our efforts for security, and the almost invasive type of efforts that are occurring right now, that something like this could happen,” said William R. Keating, who was Norfolk District Attorney at the time of the death.

He added, “it’s a terrible tragedy what happened to this young man, but if that was someone with a different motive… if that was a terrorist that could have been a bomb that was planted, undetected. This is very serious.”

The airport is allegedly going to have additional security patrols added, and have implemented several of the changes suggested to them by police.
“There was no way to deny that that incident was a catalyst for a lot of discussions and concerns,” said Kerr Putney, deputy Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief.

Do you think the city and others should be held responsible for Tisdale’s death?